Miniature Origami Swimming Robot

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-05 00:17:59

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have demonstrated an untethered miniature origami robot that self-folds, walks, swims and dissolves. From a flat 2D sheet with a magnet on it, the robot folds itself up in a matter of seconds, zips around via magnets on land or water and then gets dunked into a tank of acetone to dissolve completely.

The robot consists of a magnet and PVC sandwiched between laser-cut structural layers (polystyrene or paper). It weighs 0.31g, is 1.7cm long and can travel at speeds of up to four centimeters a second.

In forming itself, heat is applied which causes the PVC to contract and fold along pre-cut layers. The robot is powered by a permanent magnet motor. Its interaction with four electromagnetic coils placed under it provide the energy used for movement, although the magnets don’t move the robot directly. Rather they vibrate it slightly in different directions, and the built-in magnet keeps it moving steadily in one direction.

The robot can be steered through water when the external magnetic field is strong enough.

The MIT researchers haven’t yet added sensors or other payloads, but the robot is designed for use in tight, unreachable spaces. Using different construction materials it could be further enhanced to dissolve in water. The attraction for this biodegradable self-destruction is potential medical applications inside the body.

MIT has already demonstrated a robot cheetah that can run and jump without the need for cables. MIT researchers have also developed a robotic fish that can move and change direction as quickly as a real fish, a soft arm that can grasp objects and slither like a snake, robotic sheep, origami flowers that can open and change colors and robotic ducks that fold into shape by being heated in an oven.


Chinese Yard Starts Building Titanic Replica

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-05 01:52:46

China Daily reports that the construction of a replica Titanic is now underway. The lifesize replica is expected to be complete by August 2017 and open to the public in October 2017.

Shipbuilder Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group, a Chinese State-run shipbuilder, is undertaking the one billion yuan ($161.3 million) project. Sichuan-based company Seven Star Energy Investment Group is reportedly providing the funds.

China Daily reports that Su Shaojun, chairman of Seven Star, said that he wanted, through the reconstruction – to share and spread the spirit of the Titanic -love and self-sacrifice.

The replica will be the centrepiece of a theme park expected to attract tourists from around the world.

Su also stated that Seven Star has launched the Titanic Foundation which aims to provide assistance to shipwreck accident victims. Three percent of ticket sales and one percent of the theme park’s income will go to the foundation.

Seven Star is in talks with U.S.-based designers to help them with layout details.

The replica will be permanently moored on Daying Qi river in Sichuan province where the park is located, but visitors will be able to experience the infamous iceberg collision via high-tech simulation.

The project was first announced in January 2014, and a limited number of 5,000 tickets are expected to go on sale in June.


Singapore Takes Lead in Sustainability Reporting

By MarEx 2015-06-05 01:27:23

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has achieved a first in the maritime industry and public sector with its inaugural Sustainability and Integrated Report titled “Towards a Future Ready Maritime Singapore”. The report follows the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4’s Comprehensive Guidelines for Sustainability Reporting as well as Integrated Reporting adhering to the International Integrated Reporting Council’s (IIRC) Framework.

For Financial Year 2014, MPA has departed from its previous reporting format and adopted a more holistic approach in reporting its performance to its stakeholders, covering both internal and external stakeholders comprising its customers and partners, suppliers and vendors as well as its employees.

This shift reflects the move by MPA to adopt a more integrated approach in discharging its roles and responsibilities, whereby beyond promoting and regulating the maritime industry and ensuring the smooth operations at the port, it will also champion broader efforts with the maritime community in ensuring the maritime industry creates a positive impact on society, economy and environment.

Recent initiatives include setting up the MPA Sustainability Office last year to drive programs such as the Maritime Singapore Green Initiative (MSGI) in encouraging more members of the shipping community to adopt eco-friendly ship designs and construction and operations. The office has also spearheaded initiatives such as the installation of solar panels at MPA’s piers and facilities, use of more energy efficient lighting at its premises, promotion of recycling, as well as driving the safety, risk and sustainability management initiatives for the maritime industry such as through the Singapore Registry of Ships Forum and Enterprise Risk Management Forum.

Andrew Tan, Chief Executive of MPA, said, “MPA is proud to be among the first public sector agencies to achieve this significant milestone with our inaugural Sustainability and Integrated Report. As one of the world’s busiest ports and a leading international maritime center, it is important that MPA takes the lead in promoting good practices within the maritime community that will enhance our position as a clean, efficient and safe port. We hope the maritime community will continue to support MPA’s initiatives as we work towards building a Future Ready Maritime Singapore that is competitive as it is sustainable.”

Paul Druckman, CEO, International Integrated Reporting Council said, “I congratulate MPA on the publication of their first integrated report and for their leadership in embarking on their journey. Companies in the maritime sector around the world, and especially port authorities, should use this as a leading example for corporate reporting in the sector, and I urge them to follow MPA’s example by raising the quality of their reporting to this high standard. MPA’s report provides relevant information about the company, its corporate structure, strategic themes, performance and operations in a visually appealing way. It is a further example of the innovation in corporate reporting emerging from South East Asia and Singapore in particular.”

MPA, as an early mover towards Sustainability and Integrated Reporting, hopes to encourage companies in the maritime industry and organizations in the public sector to follow suit. With its holistic and systems-wide perspective, Integrated Reporting resonates with MPA’s philosophy that the sum of the whole is greater than its individual parts. MPA therefore values its close partnership with its stakeholders and believes that working together is essential to tackling many of the complex challenges facing the industry today. MPA continues to score highly on the Pro-Enterprise Ranking Survey for its business-friendly practices and this initiative will take the efforts further.

The report is available here.


Mass Rescue Operations Library Launched

By MarEx 2015-06-05 01:18:41

Two significant products to help global maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) services have been launched by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) at the World Maritime Rescue Congress.

The first are Rescue Boat Guidelines, developed from more than 2,000 contributions saved in a central database, and the second is the Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) library which complements the IMRF’s MRO workshop package.

The Rescue Boat Guidelines (RBG) enables users to go online and, after identifying the scope of activity they wish to undertake, to generate a report giving guidance on equipment, training and other procedures recommended by the IMRF.

IMRF CEO, Bruce Reid, said: “The RBG is guidance: we know that rescue is undertaken in a variety of craft. The ability to filter out areas that are not relevant to an organization will help provide manageable lists of recommended actions that will not overload users with too much information.

“After filtering there is a priority list of recommendations, rated against a risk matrix. This will help organizations to target development in areas our experts view as being of highest risk.”

The MRO online library – which is dynamic and user friendly – is organized around a series of guidance papers developed by an IMRF subject-matter expert group led by David Jardine-Smith.

This guidance draws on lessons learned in maritime mass rescue incidents of all kinds, in exercises and drills and at the IMRF’s Gothenburg series of conferences.

The IMRF’s guidance is backed up by incident and exercise reports and guidance published by the IMO and other experts, including the United States Coast Guard. It is also published as an eBook and is available here.

The library supports the development and testing of MRO planning and training, and complements the IMRF’s MRO workshops, which enable discussion by relevant organizations of this most difficult of SAR subjects.


The Supersonic Maritime Option

By Harry Valentine 2015-06-05 01:08:18

During the mid-1940s, Air Force pilots encountered a strange phenomenon during steep dive maneuvers, like some kind of an invisible barrier. A decade later, aircraft designers were busy seeking to develop an airplane capable of passing through the invisible barrier – the sound barrier.

Some 50 years later, a research team sought to develop a high-speed car capable of passing through that same invisible barrier while travelling on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the U.S. A three-wheeled jet-powered car actually passed through the sound barrier on two successive runs.

Now, an Australian boat enthusiast announced his interest in developing a boat capable of exceeding the speed of sound, possibly on a calm lake in Australia.

The lateral thinking approach would seek to combine known precedents from supersonic flight and the supersonic car with a known maritime technology – the wing-in-ground (WIG) effect craft that rides above the water surface like a sea bird gliding above the water surface. When in low-elevation flight, sea bird wing tips push an air stream downward and some of that airstream rebounds off the water surface as an updraft to help keep the seabird aloft. The same approach keeps WIG-craft aloft, and that concept may be combined with precedents in supersonic flight and supersonic ground transport to explore a possible option of supersonic maritime operation.

Designers of the supersonic car had to confront the phenomenon of the vehicle generating a shockwave as it exceeded the sound barrier. Repeated laboratory investigation and testing of supersonic aircraft revealed a sudden rise in air pressure across the shockwave that travelled with the vehicle.

With supersonic ground transport, the sudden pressure rise would occur around the vehicle and especially below the vehicle where the underside profile had to redirect the high-pressure air up and around the side. Textbook theory advises that if the vehicle is travelling 20 percent faster than the speed of sound, or Mach 1.2, the (absolute) air pressure across the shockwave would rise by 50 percent.

Theoretically, a WIG-craft built with a supersonic cross-sectional profile that includes swept-back wings would generate a shockwave that would envelope it as it exceeds the speed of sound. Since it would fly close to the water surface, the shockwave would cause a zone of lower-speed (Mach 0.8422), high-pressure air to develop between the underside of the wings and the water surface, with air rebounding between the wings and water surface.

The dynamic of air under the wings offers a possible updraft capable of carrying the weight of a high-speed WIG-craft travelling at low supersonic speed (Mach 1.2). On the top side, high-pressure air would rise upward and rearward relative to the WIG-craft, otherwise exerting minimal downward force on the wings.

Worldwide, a fraternity of interested people are involved doing research into future possibilities for WIG-craft technology, many of them building scale models or small versions of WIG-craft. The present discussion focuses on a relatively narrow wingspan with extreme length of wing, or extended-length wing chord measurement relative to the fuselage. It is a configuration that could be lengthened with a swept-back profile at the leading edge of the wings, perhaps with a rectangular ‘intake’ to the underside of the wings to ensure a high-pressure, low-speed zone of air and a supersonic profile at the bow section. There is much precedent for WIG-craft researchers to use as they explore the possibility of a supersonic version of the technology.

A previous article suggested that it would be possible to fly WIG-craft that include landing gear and carry freight between coastal airports. Supersonic WIG-craft could operate between the same coastal airports. At subsonic speeds, WIG-craft offer the prospect of burning less fuel than conventional aircraft. On extended westbound flight, conventional aircraft have to fly into powerful headwinds known as the jet-stream, while near the ocean surface the effect of the jet-stream is far less powerful, even non-existent depending on local, low-elevation wind direction. While winds may blow in one direction at low elevation at a location, more powerful higher elevation winds may blow at much higher speed in the opposite direction above the exact same location.

If the Australian adventurer who seeks to develop a boat capable of supersonic speeds were to consider a WIG-craft, he could set a precedent for future commercial development involving passenger transportation.

In the future, it may be possible for a supersonic WIG-craft to travel between the coastal airports of Los Angeles and Sydney at a speed of Mach 1.2 and with comparable fuel consumption to a commercial airliner flying into a more powerful headwind. It offers the possibility of reducing the 14-hour flight to a 10-hour voyage close to and above the ocean. There are several possible routes between coastal airports across the Asia-Pacific region where supersonic maritime transport may be a future option. – MarEx

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.